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All I Want For Christmas

by Shadina Smith 6 months ago in Family · updated 6 months ago
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This Year and Every Year

The truth had never been so vivid as it was, standing in the Target Christmas section on a Monday in early November. I had paused to linger on a pink cardboard house covered in glittery snow with tiny Christmas trees on the cardboard front lawn. A tiny wreath with a tiny red ribbon hung on the door, tying it all together. It was a miniature dream.

It’s something I’ve always known, but never been able to properly articulate; why I cling to Christmas and get excited at the first flourishes of red and green on the shelves, seeing empty lots progress into Christmas Tree farms, and the smell of cinnamon that hits you when you walk into a grocery store from now until the end of the year. I may not have realized what I was doing, but I intentionally made this holiday my safe place.

Even my most innocent and happy childhood Christmas memories are tinged with a dark murky color instead of a warm sepia. At some point, I had started to wish that my dad wasn’t around because things wouldn’t feel so scary. Maybe I could have made it through a holiday without the tightness in my chest, knowing his inevitable anger and impatience would make an appearance.

Without fail, we’d find a way to annoy him, there might be violence, but there would always be a feud between him and whichever family member disrespected him that year. Maybe it would be my brother, making a smart remark to break the silence at breakfast or my mom’s palpable dissatisfaction with his lack of involvement in preparing dinner and readying the house for guests. I had learned to be quiet, take up little space, and show the appropriate amount of enthusiasm to keep the peace. Fill in the gaps the men of the house felt they didn’t need to, so my mom wouldn’t feel alone in the kitchen and with the cleaning.

When I use the word “disrespect”, I say it with a deep sarcasm that text could not properly convey. My father was the reason I thought “respect” was a bad word until I spent several of my adult years in therapy.

This isn’t to say that Christmas with just my mother would be so much better. She had a tongue as sharp as her nails, and a fierce temper. But to me, there was something less tyrannical about her. I think it’s because I knew that her anger wasn’t about me and my brothers, it was about what being married to my father had probably done to her, and more complicated things about her life before me that I still don’t fully understand. I oscillate between anger and sympathy when it comes to her.

When we moved into the first house my parents bought I was 7, I remember those were the years they seemed to be out of love with each other, and by the time I turned 13, out of love with me. At this point, they didn’t care to decorate when Christmas came around. My dad didn’t care and my mom was fed up with my dad never helping. So, eventually, it was just me, on the roof, hanging the lights every year. I loved the heights, the cold night air on my skin, and the stars in the sky. Plus, I have always loved a creative challenge so it never felt burdensome. I felt that if I didn’t do this, Christmas wouldn’t happen.

Now, I’m three decades old and I have been gleefully squirreling away Christmas decor in my closet since November 1st. Sorry to the people who think Thanksgiving needs to happen first, but that’s not how it works for me. This year I’m going for a pastel colored theme with a lot of pink, but I haven’t decided if I want a real tree or if I want a fake one. I look over and see another woman opening a large box that boasts 100 ornaments of varying hues of pink. She says to me, “I’m so excited!” I smile earnestly and share her sentiment.

So I bought the tiny house with bubbling glee because it reminds me of why this holiday has such a hold on my heart. It’s because all I’ve wanted since leaving the place that I grew up, is to build a home with a family of my own where the Christmases are warm and bright and no one has to be scared. I want the kind of Christmas they sing about in the carols.


About the author

Shadina Smith

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